Inside Events: USA Field Hockey
9 Mar, 2016By: Simon Hoskins
An Interview with Simon Hoskins, Executive Director
USA Field Hockey is the national governing body for sport of field hockey in the United States and is based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its mission includes promoting and growing the sport, enabling the U.S. to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Pan American Games, World Cup and other International competitions; and providing programs and services for members, supporters, affiliates and the interested public. USA Hockey is committed to excellence and the improvement of opportunities for both men and women in the sport, emphasizing participation and development opportunities for players, coaches, umpires and administrators. Its motto is “Serving members, growing the game, succeeding internationally.”
Sports Destination Management: This summer is the Olympics in Rio. Is USA Field Hockey ready?
Simon Hoskins: This year, 12 teams will compete and our US Men’s National Team did not qualify. Our US Women’s National Team did, however. They are ranked seventh in the world. We like to think of ourselves as the dark horses.
SDM: The sport is popular around the world but in the U.S., it’s a predominantly female sport.
Hoskins: Yes, and intriguingly, it’s a gender-balanced sport around the world. Something we’ve noticed about the U.S. is that there tends to be pockets of males who play. There’s one, for example, in Southern California.
SDM: What initiatives does USA Field Hockey have to try to change the demographics in the US?
Hoskins: We have programs to increase the involvement of boys and men in the sport. USA Field Hockey has regional performance centers dotted around the country so boys can come part together and play. The problem is that the U.S. lacks a heritage of boys playing, and that’s something we’re trying to break out of.
SDM: What are the numbers like for players overall?
Hoskins: We estimate there are about 100,000 participants in over 2,000 high schools, 600 middle schools, 300 clubs, and 270 NCAA programs at the Division I, II and III level. The numbers at the scholastic level have been stable but it’s really growing in clubs. The biggest growth we’re seeing is 14U and 12U. The private sector, not the school sector, is what is driving that growth.
SDM: It’s interesting that you’re seeing so much growth in clubs.
Hoskins: Some of those clubs have co-ed teams, which is another way men can play.
SDM: What does USA Field Hockey look for in a potential site for a tournament or other event?
Hoskins: If it is a really big event, we’d like to have a venue with a lot of fields – 30 fields would be wonderful. We prefer places with contiguous fields. Typically, though, there are not that many venues like that. Big soccer complexes can be good places for us.
After that, we’re looking for a place with good weather; the sun belt, for example, guarantees that. We need good airport access with a lot of flights available from all destinations, including the Northeast. Hotels should be within a half-hour of the venue. And of course, since we see a lot of family travel, we know people will make it into a playcation, so a place with attractions nearby is nice. We like a place with good community and local support, and a CVB or sports commission who wants to work with us.
SDM: Do you use a stay-to-play policy?
Hoskins: Yes, we do. Everyone books their rooms though our housing bureau.
SDM: What is unique about your tournaments and events?
Hoskins: There’s not that many big events for field hockey as there are in other sports, so it’s an important occasion for a girl to be going to a tournament. The parents typically come and sometimes the grandparents as well. It’s also important because it’s a recruiting opportunity; coaches from other schools can get a look at the players who are coming up.
SDM: Hockey is also played indoors.
Hoskins: Yes, we have our National Indoor Tournament. We tend to use convention centers; we will put down eight 70-foot by 140-foot Sport Courts (editor’s note: This is a portable sports surface made of interlocking plastic tiles.) Indoor season is mainly in the winter. High school outdoor season is in the fall; indoor is in the winter, clubs in early spring and summer, then camps throughout the summer.
SDM: What is USA Field Hockey doing to grow the game overall?
Hoskins: We have a nationwide program called Fundamental Field Hockey. We provide a full set of equipment and a curriculum. It’s meant to catch that age seven to 11 group. That can be put into local schools and we want it to flow to the high schools, and to keep them in the sport after that.
SDM: How is it working?
Hoskins: We have typically had about 16,000 kids go through the program in the last four years.
SDM: Do you think field hockey in the U.S. would benefit if Los Angeles hosted the 2024 Olympics?
Hoskins: It would be a huge opportunity to grow the sport, and particularly from the male side. Particularly in Southern California, where there are already men playing.